Throughout my 17-year career as an executive recruiter, I have been asked by clients and candidates how does the process actually work? I’m sure the process differs between recruiters who work on a contingency versus a retained basis. The following is my advice on how to work with a recruiter that is retained (by the hiring company).

For the Hiring Company

For the most part, when I am retained to conduct a search for a senior executive, my client (the hiring company) has been thinking about filling the role for some time or has not been successful in filling it on their own. Many times there is a high sense of urgency to fill the position as quickly as possible. For a recruiter with a track record and a good network, we can often go to our “rolodex” and find resumes of candidates that we have met in the past who may be qualified (not necessarily interested) in the opportunity. However, in order to conduct the search properly, it is better to have a proper plan and process in place. This typically includes the following:

  1. An agreement on a reasonable timeline. Regardless of a greater utilization of technology and social media, I still find an executive search done property still takes 60-90 days on average (if not longer at times).
  2. A sufficient number of conversations/meetings with the hiring manager and other stakeholders involved to ensure we are all on the “same page” in terms of what type of candidate we are looking for.
  3. A comprehensive job description/position profile detailing the organization (if it is an overt search), the responsibilities, and required candidate qualifications. This will also serve as the “selling document” when the recruiter goes to market.
  4. A research plan which includes organization that the recruiter will target for prospective sources (those who will refer) and candidates (both current and former).
  5. The actual work – which includes the recruitment calls/outreach, phone and in-person interviews and client updates.

For the Passive Job Seeker

Quite often, executive recruiters are approaching candidates who are content in their current job and not looking to make a change. These same individuals are not typically searching out job postings online. The recruiter will approach 100+ executives on a typical search, meet with anywhere from 8-12 and present the best 3-5 to their client. It is important that the recruiter is communicative and open throughout the process. During the recruitment phase, the recruiter is “selling” the opportunity and also assessing whether the candidate will be a fit. The recruiter must meet with every qualified candidate that has expressed interest in the role before presenting them to their client. I have had candidates over my career who have insisted on meeting with the client directly, bypassing the interview with the recruiter, which doesn’t work. In a retained search, the client is paying the recruiter to vet all candidates before presenting them. It is important that the recruiter doesn’t leave anyone “hanging”. He/she must close out candidates who have applied but are not qualified to meet with the recruiter, meet with the company or have gone through the process (often times multiple interviews) and were not selected. I have had candidates (who didn’t get the job) become clients based on their positive experience working with me.

For the Active Job Seeker

As a recruiter, I receive 3-5 unsolicited resumes a day and have several “courtesy” meetings a week. These meetings are with executives who are either in transition or actively seeking a new opportunity which are not a fit for anything that I am currently working on. Often times, I’ll meet with an executive who I’m impressed with and place them next quarter, next year or a few years from now. Speaking or meeting with these active job seekers is the right thing to do as you never know when they will become a future placement or client. Candidates will usually ask “how often should they follow up”? There is no right answer. I feel monthly or quarterly follow-ups are good, it will keep you on the recruiter’s radar. I would also say that in order to build a relationship with a recruiter, candidates should try to be helpful. When a recruiter calls asking for referrals of candidates, return their phone calls and provide ideas if you can. What goes around comes around.